It is Wednesday evening at the volleyball pitch in Lugogo, Kampala and players are waiting for their coach. Buyungo alights from her car, opens the boot, picks up a baby chair, straps in her seven-month-old baby and heads to the training ground. Shilla Omuriwe Buyungo is head coach for both the men and women’s team at Kampala Amateur Volleyball Club (KAVC).
During the training, there is a lot of cooperation; men and women, some of them double Buyungo’s height all paid attention to instruction. The two teams were preparing for their annual KAVC Volleyball competitions and eager to host teams from Rwanda, Kenya, and Tanzania among other countries.
After training the women, Buyungo turned her attention to the gents. The ease with which she goes about her work is what drew me to her.
Buyungo narrates her attachment to volleyball as a journey that started in high school. “I started playing volleyball in Senior Two at Wanyange Girls School,” she recalls. A group of volleyball players from KAVC visited the school with Judith Lubega an old student, and active sportswoman who was part of the netball and athletics teams but who also embraced volleyball and later introduced the students to the game. Lubega’s defensive role in the game was exceptional, which made her a star attraction on the school team whenever they went for school competitions.
With time Buyungo became attached to volleyball hence sidelining other sports.“I love volleyball because it is a defensive game. Just like chess, volleyball requires a smart mind.”
Leaves school volleyball
Done with high school at Wanyange Girls, Buyungo joined Makerere University where she did a Bachelor in Social Sciences. However, she did not join the university team as she was an evening student and did not have time, but she was part of the KAVC club only that her talent had not yet been identified. At the time, the team had more talent and players like her were a by-the-way. However, this did not deter her from training whole heartedly.
It was Buyungo’s invitation to the national team that alerted her club to her potential. Buyungo says, “Coach Anthony Ndawula invited me for training as the team was going for African Qualifiers in 2001 and that is when people started recognising me as a potential player.” However, the team failed to raise money for the air tickets and their journey aborted.
Volleyball in the US
After her degree, she joined the University of Bridge Port in United States of America and did a masters in Counselling and Guidance.
This did not kill the volleyball passion in her; she decided to play for the university side, a thing that earned her a four-year scholarship. Since she had applied for a two year course, she had to study a master’s in Business Administration to maximise this chance.
Little did she know that her sporting background in Uganda was followed by the university. She was identified as a professional player, a contradiction with the university law governing sports. Since the university still needed her, she was made a defensive coach a role she took on with great passion. While in the US, Buyungo played for teams like West Port, Wilton and Fair field volleyball and she would also return to Uganda on various occasions to play for her team KAVC.
Marriage and training KAVC
Forty-year-old Buyungo is married to Peter Buyungo, a volleyball player with the same club. They have three children; Petra Nakiwala, 8, Peytyn Najjemba, 6 and seven-month-old son Shemuel Siima.
The coach started dating Peter Buyungo who was also a volley ball player in KAVC in 2007 and in the same year, they tied the knot. She decided to remain in Uganda after giving birth to her first born.
At the time, KAVC had no coach and the team members requested Buyungo to take up this role, which she has played, free-of-charge, to date.
Juggling coaching, business and parenting
Buyungo credits her husband Buyungo for supporting her in this course. She says “whenever I am away for duty, my husband (Buyungo) would take care of the children because he has played volleyball and knows well what it takes to be a coach,”
Buyungo says that she has no problem with appearing for duty with her children as they also love the game just like their parents.
Buyungo is also an entrepreneur. She makes juice that she branded ‘Living one’.Though she has not yet started distributing her juice to bigger markets, she has a ready market from her team members who can be seen enjoying the delicacy after a long training or a tiresome game.